Our Community Visit to Acocks Green Police Station

July 5th, 2018

Acocks Green Police Station Visit 27.6.2018 – Group Photo

Stop Press: To see more pictures, share your memories of the Police Station and talk about the work to save it more, see us at the Acocks Green Focus Group Stall at the Acocks Green Carnival, on the Acocks Green Recreation Ground on Saturday 7th July. 

On 27 June 2018 a large number of Acocks Green residents ended up inside Acocks Green cop shop – they were shown the cells too!  However, this dastardly bunch from Acocks Green Focus Group, Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum, South Yardley Neighbourhood Forum and with representatives from all three main local political parties,  had a serious purpose.  We are all concerned about the proposed closure of the Station at the end of 2020,  and this was a fact-finding mission to find out the truth about the Station: what are its important historic features; how well used it really is; what it is really costing us to run it and does it really need to close?  We are very grateful to Inspector Sharon Revitt and her team, for her freely given help.  This was what we found:

Historic Features

We only touch on these briefly here, because we covered a lot  in our previous post – please scroll down to ‘Architectural Features’  However, the dramatic magistrate’s entrance to the old Yardley District Courtroom remains a powerful key feature which everyone saw and admired:

 

What is the Station Used for?

This was interesting, we discovered the following about the uses of the Station.

  • 97 police officers currently use the Station, although not all at the same time.  And we saw that each officer has an individual locker.
  • The community service officers for Acocks Green and South Yardley are based here, and we saw six at work on the internet.

  • Locate’ is a key activity at this Station – this is to do with finding missing persons. There are three ‘locate’ teams identified with particular areas and a further ‘unsolved locate’ team. They are dealing with missing persons of any age – they have teenagers who ring in saying they are just fed up with their folks, but they may still be at risk of course.  They have elderly people with dementia, but also young children.  Missing persons are a serious issue.   This is a pilot approach which has been very successful and is about to be rolled out across the whole force.  It is a system which seems to be quite space and labour intensive.
  • There is a bicycle storage shed with about a dozen bicycles in regular use for quick response, by local police officers.

  • There is a storage room for equipment for all sorts of emergency situations, including riot gear.

  • There is a large conference room with facilities for teleconferencing, including for Skype meetings.  There are cameras, screens, microphones  and speakers, all ready to link to elsewhere.  One group will go into the room to have a meeting with other groups elsewhere
  • A number of rooms are being used for a Princes Trust project, which ends soon.

What other facilities are available for officers at Acocks Green Police Station?

This was interesting because it was obvious that in many ways Acocks Green Police Station is quite a little home from home for officers working there, (We think this is a good thing!)

  • There is a rest room for off-duty officers.  One was sitting on a sofa, with his feet-up watching the football as we went past.
  • There is a ‘drying room’.  This is a special area to hang up wet clothing, obviously good for soaked officers coming in from duties on foot, on bike etc.
  • There are two kitchens.
  • There is a shower room

Three Houses!!

A lot of people know that the Police Station originally had some live-in accommodation for officers.  What is less well-known is that The Police Station was also originally designed with no fewer than three houses built into the Station.   These were for the Sergeant, The Inspector and the Superintendent.

The Inspector’s and Sergeant’s house at Acocks Green Police Station houses, viewed from the back.

And this bit, which if you live in Acocks Green you already know very well … was the very posh Superintendent’s House, complete with turret.

Also interestingly, what is now a car-park area at the Alexander Road side of the Police Station was originally one or more gardens for these houses.

What about wasted space?

There were some small rooms not in use, but other rooms full of police officers working away.  It is obvious that at some point in the past some rooms, including the Magistrate’s Court, and rooms from the houses were roughly divided into partitions with stud walls.  This has left some rather awkward corridors, and helped to create a rabbit-warren effect, which we think could be attended to with a radical re-think of the arrangements, and some re-use of the houses for living-accommodation, but we will come back to this under ‘Financial Issues’ below.

Financial Issues

  • There is a yearly running cost figure of £64,000.  of which £24,000 is rates.
  • No major repairs issues were identified.  (We photographed a minor issue of damp, probably from a flat roof, in the Magistrate’s Court entrance lobby.)  We were shown no other outstanding repairs issues and could identify no other repairs issues for ourselves. 
  • We were told that a cost of £300,000 had been identified as necessary to bring the Police Station up to standard.  When we asked for a breakdown of these costs we were told that the involved the roof, the heating system and ‘electrical improvements’, but no exact figures were available.  We have been promised these, and are still awaiting them.  Meantime, however, discussion among the group later turned up the fact that there was apparently quite extensive roofing work done to the Station in about 2005.  Several people recall the scaffolding on the building then.  What further repairs now need doing, or what estimates have been obtained for these is not clear.  We have been assured that efforts will be made to obtain more detailed figures, and this is a matter we will continue to pursue.
  • An issue with lack of air-conditioning was also mentioned.  However, we believe that it should be possible to supply stand-alone units in rooms which need them, at a cost of around £300.00 per unit.
  • We were also told the 90% of the costs in running the building are essentially staffing-costs, and these are currently difficult to meet.

Potential Alternative Accommodation

No clear plans for other Police accommodation in the locality seemed to be available when we visited.

We were told that a retail facility (like a high street shop) had already been ruled out, and indeed we think it would need to be a very large shop to accommodate the present facilities..

The only other suggestion made was libraries:  Acocks Green Library is full.  It is already used for a wide-range of activities and there is no more space.  South Yardley Library?  This would cut down drastically on the available amount of community space for meetings etc.  (And some community meetings still take place at the Police Station.)  It would seem unlikely that in these straightened times Birmingham City Council, which is currently facing its own funding crisis, is likely to allow Police use of South Yardley Library at a peppercorn rent!  More than this though, facilities at South Yardley Library are unlikely to be the desirable state-of-the-art ones mentioned in the desired £300,000 refurbishment, and more seriously there is no available parking there.

Conclusions

The community representatives on the visit felt that this Police Station still has a lot to offer.  Useful work is being carried out here.  In addition to form a base for community-policing the Locate work for a wide area is being undertaken in the building.  Equipment for crisis situations is stored here, also as a number of rapid response bicycles.  Meantime, overall, the range of facilities on offer for police officers deployed from the building suggested to us, that although there is always room for improvement there are overall good staff facilities on offer, many of which would be hard to replicate elsewhere.

The building is very clearly NOT in a poor state of repair.  There are potential up-dating costs (Not all-of which need happen at once) but the overall costs of £300,000 for these is fairly modest and could represent a good investment in a still useful building.

We note the current Government cuts to Police funding, and are not unsympathetic to the need for extra monies to be found.  Some additional space is now available, and more will be when the Prince’s Trust ceases to use part of the building.   Some of this space now poorly divided up in what seems to be a series of dated stud-wall arrangements.  There would appear to be a preferred community option for refinancing this Police Station:

The community became very interested in the three houses on the premises, all of which have their own front doors.  Could these be either (1) Rented out or (2) sold?  We were told that the Police are ‘not a profit-making organisation.’  However, the The Police in Prestatyn are doing just this, and surely it would be better to engage letting agent to manage the properties and use the revenues to maintain the Station than sell it off in immortal preservation of this principle?  Otherwise (2) The three houses could in fact be sold bringing some much-needed immediate capital receipts to ensure the overall survival of the building?

Either way, we would also propose that the courtyard on the houses side becomes again a green area with lawn, bushes, plants, pathways, etc.  This would instantly make the accommodation area more attractive, as it must have been in the past.

Leave a Reply